It's always exciting crossing into the States; not only do I have to explain why I'm not going right on the exact day of my birthday (gasp! the scandal of it all), but I also have to explain how I got the grand old age I am without holding a job title I'm able to spit out in 5 words or less.
"Stay at home parent?" the border guard always asks me (in what I almost always belatedly realize is a rhetorical remark): "So, where are your kids?" And then he/she usually peers very closely at me, until I am tempted to ask if I appear blurry.
Anyhow, once I'd got past those charming, perceptive guards of the border, I was able to shed the bonds of motherhood and really get into the spirit of Discount American Consumerism.
We went to Ross (which exists in Canada in as Winners). I have a thing for nutcrackers (as long as they don't look like athletes or idiots) and I bought a lovely package of them in varying guises: chimney sweep, snowman, jester, Father Christmas, but it was only when I got back to the motel room that I noticed one was Mr America. Forgive me, Gentle American Reader, but the Mr America Nutcracker is not my favourite. The red white and blue flag thing is not a good look - it makes him look a bit washed out. Besides, if I have to listen to FDPG tell me that there are only 23 stars on this flag which HAS to be wrong but why did they make this nutcracker if they knew it was wrong someone should have seen that one shouldn't they where was this thing made? one more time I might scream.
We went to Trader Joe's. I've always had a soft spot for Trader Joe's, it's cheap and cheerful and reminds me of an old hippie store, with all it's economy sushi, goat cheese, sprouted breads, and organic salads. Besides, where else could you buy candies with "natural acai flavour"? I mean, who else but a hippie would think acai berries belong in candy? Ugh. (note to friends: don't be giving me any acai berries for Christmas - ickola)
Nevertheless, I bought a package of these for each of my kids. They come in a cool little tin and they are luridly purple. No one noticed the acai taste at all. Must have been all that sugar.
And with this new craze every store seems to have for selling its own shopping bag (even our library has shopping bags, although they market them as Book Bags) I see Trader Joe's, as is its wont, has upped the ante with cooler shopping bags. They are almost frame-able they are so beautiful. Look at this little number reposing in my kitchen. I love it. And yes, I might marry it I love it so much, Mr Richard Smartie Pants.
And now I see that they've got retro packaging. This baby might just make it onto one of my home made wall signs once we've consumed the contents. Cheap chocolate pudding always looks way cooler in retro packaging - and that is the brilliance that is Trader Joe's: putting (sometimes slightly inferior) alternative products in way cool packaging.
Here is another example: the Almost Oreo. The Christmas Almost Oreo. It has crushed candy canes in the filling. And a gaily striped box without. What's even better: it's cheaper than Oreos. Which made me purchase 2 boxes. So what if it isn't quite as minty as the Christmas Oreo?
Ahem. Yes, I AM a sucker for advertising. Besides, the kids loved them.
I even went to a kitchen store I'd heard of many times on the TV show Friends: it's called Williams Sonoma. It's a vastly over-priced place, where you can purchase small packages of hot chocolate for $20 and teeny tiny little bags of pasta for $18, not to mention horrendously priced dishes, and aprons for $50, but you can also buy way cool baking implements like this one you see on the left. It's called a Backyard Bug Dish. Yes children, with this thing you CAN eat bugs. What's better, they will even taste good. Hardly any crunchy bits, either. The oven temperatures have something to do with that, I think. Melts everything.
See? I baked some here. In chocolate cake batter. Mmmmmm. Chocolate bees. Chocolate butterflies. Chocolate ladybugs. Mmmmm. I can see birthday parties and tea parties in your future, cake tin.